Hair length and hair styles may seem like a purely fashion issue. Sometimes long hair gets in style, sometimes short hair gets in style, so what? However, upon closer examination, we see that hair styles have played an important role in religion and politics.
In fact, what we consider to be attractive hair styles today, is strongly influenced by religious text and sometimes political context.
“Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.” ~~[1 Corinthians 11:14-15]
Even today, it is much more socially acceptable for men to wear their hair short. Similarly, it is usually considered more attractive for women to keep their hair long. Short hair is commonly looked upon as a masculine trait, while long hair is considered a feminine trait.
Long Hair or Short Hair?
In my informal Attractive Women Survey –
- Only 5% of respondents picked short hair as being attractive on women.
- In contrast, a whopping 70% prefer long hair, out of over 5000 votes.
In my informal Attractive Men Survey –
- Only 8% of respondents picked long hair as being attractive on men.
- In contrast 48% prefer short hair, out of over 1000 votes.
These results are very much in line with the socially accepted norm that women should have long hair, and men should have short hair.
A 2008 poll reported by the Daily Mail also showed similar results, with 56% of men preferring long hair on women (43% prefer long and wavy hair, and 13% prefer long and straight hair). Only 22% of the the men picked a short hairstyle (e.g. classic bob, pixie crop, bowl cut).
Why Is Long Hair Attractive for Women?
More formal scientific studies also show that hair length is significantly correlated with female attractiveness, when rated by both men and women. Furthermore,
A significant correlation between hair length and age indicated that younger women tend to have longer hair than older women. Hair quality was correlated with women’s health. Consistent with the principle of intersexual selection, the results of this study indicate that hair length and quality can act as a cue to a woman’s youth and health and, as such, signify reproductive potential.
Shiny, strong hair provides a cue to recent good health, developmental condition, and genotypic quality. Tellingly, long hair is often preferred across cultures, and long, lustrous hair is often associated with beauty (Etcoff, 1999).
~~[The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology by David M. Buss]
In short, long hair is often associated with beauty in women because it is highly correlated with youth, health, and reproductive potential.
Does Hair Matter?
It may be more politically correct to say that “hair does not matter” or that hair length and style is purely superficial.
However, this is clearly not true, as is shown by the scientific studies cited above. This is why hair care products are a multi-billion dollar business. Both men and women are willing to spend large amounts of money to regrow hair, style hair, and keep their hair looking shiny and healthy.
Healthy hair is often seen as a sign of youth, energy, and vitality. A person with a healthy, full head of hair can also appear more confident and successful.
Hair is also seen as a symbol of status and wealth. In the past, rich Roman women wore complex hairstyles that required a lot of labor to maintain. Today, wealthy women and celebrities often set the fashion for everyone else.
Hair and Social Identity
Hair length and style was often used as an indication of social identity and group membership. Hippies, for example, kept their hair long to challenge the prevailing gender differences of their time. Similarly, the flappers in the 1920s wore their hair short and bobbed, as a challenge against the more traditional roles of women.
Religions may also set rules as to how men and women should wear their hair. Much of what we consider to be socially acceptable hairstyles for men and women today, are likely influenced, in no small part, by these religious rules. Some religions may require a woman to cover her head and hair as a sign of modesty. Hair coverings, however, are not solely for women. Sikh men usually keep their hair uncut, tied in a bun, and covered with a turban.
Hair Length and Facial Features
Whether a particular hairstyle is attractive or not, depends to some degree on the shape of our face, and on our facial features.
However, a study by Bereczkei and Mesko also show the following –
The present study shows that the physical appearance of long-haired women was rated high, regardless, of whether their facial attractiveness was valued high or low.
~~[Bereczkei T., Mesko N. (2006) Hair length, facial attractiveness, personality attribution: a multiple fitness model of hairdressing. Review of Psychology 13: 1-60]
This study shows that long hair is a preferred feminine trait, irrespective of facial shape and features.
Long Hair or Short Hair?
The polls and scientific studies above show that long hair is a strong feature associated with feminine attractiveness. This is likely because long hair is associated with reproductive success.
The attractiveness of long hair on men is less clear since reproductive health issues are less relevant. As a result, hair length on men is more strongly influenced by political, cultural, religious, and economical factors.